Report: 32 Diet Members of Japan’s LDP Aware of Kickback Practice; 11 Knew Money Was Going Unreported in Funds Reports

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to the press at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday.

Thirty-two of the 85 ruling Liberal Democratic Party Diet members whose offices had received kickbacks from their factions’ fundraising parties were aware the practice was occurring at the time, and 11 knew that the funds were not being reported in their political funds reports, according to an LDP report released Thursday.

The report was compiled based on interviews with lawmakers and others in connection to the Political Funds Control Law violation scandal. Among the politicians who received the funds, 53 used the money to pay for personnel and other expenses.

The LDP is making arrangements to hold a meeting of the Diet’s Deliberative Council on Political Ethics and have people involved in the scandal explain their actions.

Interviews were conducted with 91 people, comprising 82 Diet members from the Abe and Nikai factions; three former lawmakers; and the secretaries general and officials of six LDP factions and two groups. The LDP asked lawyers to compile the report, and the answers given during the interviews were kept anonymous.

The 85 current and former lawmakers interviewed had received kickbacks totaling ¥579.49 million over five years from 2018-22. The highest amount received by an individual was ¥35.26 million.

According to the report, 53 people received kickbacks from their factions when income from ticket sales for fundraising parties exceeded a quota, and 16 simply retained the income in excess of their quotas at their own offices. The remaining 16 received the money both ways.

In the report, 15 specific examples of how the money was spent were listed, including being used to pay for social gatherings, books, personnel and hospitality gifts.

Of the 32 LDP members who were aware that the practice was happening at the time, 11 Abe faction members were also aware that the money was not being reported in their political funds reports. Several said it was left unreported at the instruction of the faction. The report said it was “unclear” when the kickbacks started in the Abe faction but pointed out there was “a high possibility it has been occurring for more than 10 years.”

“We must take every available opportunity to have the people involved fulfill their responsibility to explain what happened in order to regain the public’s trust,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also LDP president, said to reporters after receiving the report.

The comment seems to have been made with the political ethics council meeting in mind.

Former LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Koichi Hagiuda told reporters at party headquarters on Thursday, “If conditions for appearing at the council are made clear and I meet those conditions, I won’t refuse to attend it.”

Hagiuda is one of five core members of the Abe faction. Three other members — former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno; former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura; and former LDP Secretary General for the House of Councillors Hiroshige Seko — have indicated their willingness to appear before the council. The other member, former LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairperson Tsuyoshi Takagi, has not clarified his stance on the matter.